In Volume 1 of Nick Spencer's DC Comics reintroduction of the classic "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" series, readers were taken on a maddening ride through the heart of one of the medium's most celebrated cult titles. This month, the writer takes the curse of his fractured superheroes even deeper.
After introducing fans to second generation agents Toby Heston and Colleen Franklin, over the course of the acclaimed ten-issue run, Toby was revealed to be a double agent for prime series bad guys S.P.I.D.E.R. (only to have his status scrambled by the power of Methor's helmet) while Colleen discovered she was in fact the daughter of original T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent Dynamo and long hidden villain Iron Maiden (only to offer her mother up for execution). Spencer told CBR News that in November 30's issue #1 of his second go round with the team, those heartbreaking character turns will again be front and center.
"What I would say is that in the book, from day one, Toby and Colleen have been our leads. And I don't think that that changes here, but at the same time, Dynamo, NoMan and Lightning all have fundamental roles to play in the story," the writer said. "This book has always been a unique juggling act. I think that we did a pretty solid job in the first arc of setting up who these characters are, but there's still more to do in that regard. There's still a lot to learn about them. The book is, for me at least, more about exploring these characters than it is about massive plot movements. I've always felt that we succeeded most when we were explaining what was going on in their heads and what was making them tick. I think that's the stuff readers have liked about the story so far too."
Longtime fans of Wally Wood's original "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" run will have plenty of old school elements to sink their teeth into for this miniseries as well, as Spencer and core series artist Wes Craig bring back underground menace the Subterraneans. "This is all connected to the original Tower run," Spencer explained. "Especially in this second volume, so much of this book has been about connecting these characters with that classic book. This follows up on things we've seen in the original books. The Subterraneans were the primary villains of 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' in its beginnings, and S.P.I.D.E.R. came along later. My decision was to flip that and start with S.P.I.D.E.R. because I felt like for the new reader that was a bit easier to grab onto. We've then slowly gone to little green men who live underground -- not that little green men are out of place in comics!
"I wanted this to be a book about a government agency -- a political thriller and a spy thriller. It was important to establish that first, and I think that the Subterraneans made sense as a final villain rather than something to start things off with. The Subterraneans were the kind of thing you wait for."
All in all, the writer said that the book has often been about impact of crazy science fiction technology on human lives, and Volume 2 will continue that tradition as it delves into the mind of NoMan, the secret of the Dynamo belt and the truth behind the Agents' living computer Daniel. "The technology and its creation through the years is a major part of this story. In the first issue, we start seeing what some of these things are, and Daniel in particular has a very big role to play in this story. All of those threads we set up, in the first issue especially, are all things that will be wrapped up here."
And one of the biggest teases from Volume 1 -- Iron Maiden's declaration of "He's still alive!" before her execution -- will play a significant role as well. But could the lady villain really have meant her former foe/lover Dynamo? "Again, a big part of the story is connecting the beginnings of the book to this cast and this world. A lot of things will come full circle here. Certainly what Rusty yelled at the end of issue #10 is a very big moment. It's pretty overt foreshadowing, and something important is right around the corner. When everybody sees it, it will hopefully be a big, stunning, emotional moment for the book," Spencer said.
Joining the writer and modern era artist Craig on the book (aside from cover artists like Andy Kubert, Frazer Irving and Dustin Nguyen, of course) will be another string of classic comics creators who will help tell flashback stories of the Agents' original adventures. Jerry Ordway tackles those duties on issues #1 and 2 followed by Walter Simonson on issue #3. "This book has been one of the greatest opportunities of my career, in large part because I've gotten to work with most of my favorite artists from decades past," Spencer said. "It's really incredible what the list is at this point. I can't reveal them all yet, but what I can say is that my editor, Wil Moss, has really outdone himself for this volume. Last time, I got to work with Howard Chaykin and George Perez and Mike Grell. The second time out, I thought there was no way we could match that, but Wil has worked night and day to find some more incredible, legendary guest artists for the book. For me, there are dreams you think are never going to come true, but the fact that Walt Simonson is drawing my next book is still blowing my mind. It's part of what makes this book special. I think pound for pound, this book has got the strongest artistic lineup of any book I can name. You're just talking about A-list legend after legend being a part of this. These guys don't get to do monthly comics as often anymore, and to see the pages come in from them is pretty fantastic."
Ultimately, the writer said the legacy he's most proud to carry on in his final run with the series is continuing "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" status as a comic revered for its artistic prowess. "I think that's part of what has gotten artists to come on. This book has such an artist's pedigree. It was nice that we could come up with a storytelling format to make that possible, and we've got a group of characters that are key to be drawn in a classic style. I can't think of another book like this where you'd have this opportunity."
"T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" Volume 2 #1 ships on November 30 from DC Comics.